Why do we fight the wind?

I received an email from Mike Edwards, CEO of Borders. The email was titled “A Fond Farewell,” announcing the closing and liquidation of their remaining book stores and inventory. The first paragraph really caught my attention:

We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren’t able to overcome these external forces.

Pay attention to the use of these words: headwind, fight, and external forces.

A headwind implies the wind is going in the opposite direction you are. Winds change direction from time to time, and that is generally a healthy thing for our weather. Sometimes the winds can be a signal to change direction. It is a lot easier to loft the sail in your boat and let the wind propel the craft than it is to put oars into the water and go against it. The wind can be your friend, or your enemy, and it is a choice on how you harness it, or press against it.

Borders saw the changes and, according to this email, fought against them. They regarded these events as external forces. Would Borders’ outcome been different if instead of regarding these things as external forces to be fought against, they looked at them as trends leading them to new sales opportunities and new markets to expand into? What if they looked at the external forces as something they could become a part of? If the external force becomes something we are a part of, it becomes something we can benefit from, and even help direct its course. It ceases to be external.

I think the outcome may have been considerably different had the company not looked at these changes in the industry as headwinds, but instead as a change in the wind direction, and steered their course differently, more rapidly, to adjust to the change in direction. Amazon and Barnes & Nobel were quicker to see the opportunity in the eReader revolution and jump on the bandwagon.

There is a lot of talk in mainline churches about change. Some people want to adopt all manners of change, others fear it. Changes in music, the use of technology, social media, the style of worship, or the appearance of a sanctuary can all change the flavor of our worship can all be viewed as threats. They may challenge us to do things, sing things, or see things in a way we have not seen before, and that can cause some discomfort.

Here is the deal: we live in a culture that is changing very rapidly, whether we like it or not. Generation Y and younger communicate and socialize in ways foreign to the rest of us. As such, their needs from the church and worship are different. (See Richard Beck’s blog post titled How Facebook Killed the Church for a more detailed look at this.)

Do we as Christ’s body look at these changes only as threats? … or are all these changes great new opportunities? Will we allow these headwinds to choose their own direction? … or will we get involved in them, and help steer them in a direction more conducive to Christ’s positive influence in the world?

The world is becoming much more connected; social networks allow ideas to spread rapidly, and experiences to be shared without geographical boundaries. This is a huge opportunity. The alternative is to follow in the footsteps for Borders; but if we do, it won’t be just a monetary bankruptcy, but a spiritual bankruptcy as well, since the influence of the Church will not be present to help shape how these new forces influence our world.

As long as the wind is powered by the breath of the Holy Spirit, we would be very wise to harness its force, instead of turning our course against it and complain about the headwind.

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